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Detention timeline - Source: SBS
The Rudd government has moved to scrap the so-called Pacific Solution, but mandatory detention is still in place for asylum seekers, who are now held onshore.
1992: Mandatory detention introduced
Mandatory detention laws for all foreigners who arrive in Australia without a visa were introduced in Australia by the Keating Labor government, with bi-partisan support, in 1992. The legislation specifically disallowed judicial review, but did impose a 273 day limit on detention.
?1994: Detention limit removed
?The Keating government introduced new legislation broadening the application of mandatory detention and removing the 273 day limit.
?2001: The Tampa affair
?In August 2001, a diplomatic dispute brewed between Australia, Norway, and Indonesia after Tampa had rescued 439 Afghans from a distressed fishing vessel in international waters.
?The Afghans wanted passage to nearby Christmas Island. The Australian government sought to prevent this by refusing Tampa entry into Australian waters, insisting on their disembarkment elsewhere, and deploying the SASR to board the ship.
?The refugees from the Tampa were loaded onto a Royal Australian Navy vessel. Most were transported to Nauru as part of what was known as Australia's "Pacific Solution," and held in two detention camps.
?2001: Pacific Solution introduced
?Following the Tampa affair the Howard government developed the Pacific Solution Policy, which was was implemented by then Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock.
?Under the Pacific Solution:
?? Thousands of islands were controversially excised from Australia?s migration zone or Australian territory.
? The Australian Defence Force commenced Operation Relex to interdict vessels containing asylum seekers.
? These asylum seekers were removed to third countries in order to determine their refugee status.
?2001: Border Protection Bill introduced
?This emergency bill entitled the "Border Protection Bill 2001",? introduced by John Howard on August 29, provided the government with the power to:
?? remove any ship in the territorial waters of Australia,
? use reasonable force to do so,
? provide that any person who was on the ship may be forcibly returned to the ship,
? guarantee that no asylum applications may be made by people on board the ship.
?2001: Migration Amendment Act allows indefinte detentions
?The Migration Amendment (Excision from Migration Zone) (Consequential Provisions) Act 2001 further strengthened the practice of mandatory detention, allowing for indefinite detention of unauthorized arrivals.
?2003: Woomera detention centre closed
?The remote detention centre, where detainees have sewed their lips together and held numerous hunger strikes to protest their isolation, was officially closed.
?At its peak, Woomera housed more than 1,400 illegal migrants who sought asylum in Australia after arriving, some of whom remained more than three years while they awaited processing or appeals.
?2004: Court rules harsh detention conditions not unlawful
?On 6 August 2004, the High Court of Australia handed down its decision in the case of Behrooz V Secretary Of The Department Of Immigration And Multicultural And Indigenous Affairs and held that the harsh conditions of detention did not lead detention to become unlawful.
?On the same day, the High Court also handed down its decision in Al-Kateb v Godwin which held that unsuccessful asylum seekers who could not be removed to another country, despite their wish to leave Australia, could continue to be held in immigration detention indefinitely.
?2005: Inquiry finds detention can cause mental illness
?The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC)'s inquiry into mandatory detention of children who arrived without a valid visa over the period 1999-2002, finds that children detained for long periods of time were at a high risk of suffering mental illness.
?2005: Unlawful detentions unveiled
?In February 2005, it was revealed that a mentally ill German citizen holding Australian permanent residency, Cornelia Rau, had been held in detention as an unauthorised immigrant for ten months.
?In May, it was revealed that 33 people had been wrongfully detained under the Migration Act, including one case of a woman forcibly deported and subsequently missing, Vivian Solon.
?By late May, over 200 cases of possible wrongful immigration detention had been referred to the Palmer Inquiry.
?2005: Release of long term detainees
?In June 2005 a small backbench revolt in John Howard's own party led by Petro Georgiou and Judith Moylan resulted in some concessions to humanitarian concerns, including the promised release of long term detainees and review of future cases by an ombudsman.
?In October 2005, the Commonwealth Ombudsman revealed that more than half of those cases were held for a week or less and 23 people were held for more than a year and two of them were detained for more than five years.?
In 2006 the federal government made a $400,000 compensation payout to an 11-year-old Iranian boy for the psychological harm he suffered while being detained in Woomera and Villawood detention centres between 2000 and 2002.
?2007: The costs of the?Pacific Solution emerge
?A report, A Price Too High: Australia's Approach to Asylum Seekers, found that:?
? The Pacific Solution cost the Australian taxpayer in excess of $1 billion over five years.
? It cost more than $500,000 per person to process them on Manus Island, Christmas Island or Nauru.
? It costs seven times more to process asylum seekers on Pacific islands than if it was done on the Australian mainland.
? The Pacific Solution failed to reduce the number of people arriving.
2007: Rudd promises to end Pacific Solution
Upon assuming office in December, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd confirmed that the detention centres on Manus Island and on Nauru would be closed.
?2008: Several detainees found to be genuine refugees
?Seven asylum seekers from Burma and 75 of the 83 from Sri Lanka detained on Nauru were granted the right to settle in Australia.
?21 Sri Lankans arrived in Australia on February 8, leaving Nauru's detention camp empty and marking the end of the "Pacific Solution".
?Rudd urged to scrap mandatory detention.??Amnesty International has welcomed Australia's decision to close offshore detention centres, but says the government should now scrap mandatory detention.?The Rudd Government has moved to scrap the so-called Pacific Solution, but mandatory detention is still in place for asylum seekers, who are now held onshore.